Wilfred, Season 4: Episode 3 – “Loyalty”
Written by Keith Heisler
Directed by Randall Einhorn
Airs Wednesday nights at 10 on FXX
While Wilfred doesn’t always take its titles head-on and through to their natural conclusions in the space of 20 minutes, “Loyalty” is an episode that manages to balance the ongoing mystery plot of the series’ final season with strikingly honest commentary on the concept of loyalty. This is done, of course, in a very Wilfred way, so as to not come off heavy-handed or preachy. Thus, we also get a running C-plot like Wilfred’s addiction to cuddling and his relationship with a certain toy that he eventually uses not in the way it is meant to be. This is probably the kind of stuff viewers who occasionally tune into to Wilfred enjoy seeing instead of the Wilfred mythology, which is fair enough. It’s certainly grotesquely funny (and has tons of cultural references that can be easy to miss, which is a quality it shares with its former FX brother, Archer; the most…enjoyable?…of these in “Loyalty” for me is the re-enactment of an infamous Requiem for a Dream sequence, which adds all kinds of gross layers to the event). But this, really, isn’t what Wilfred is best at. The series is best at testing Ryan with real, significant problems that most viewers can probably relate to, and “Loyalty” doesn’t lose sight of this at all.
Usually, the dynamic in any family isn’t perfect. Humans, like TV series, tend to feed off conflict on a certain level, so there has to be some amount of chaos, whether it is very visible or quite subtle. The conflict in the Newman family comes passed down from a set of parents who didn’t really have their shit together. Ryan and Kristen, consequently, clash often, but those clashes never feel permanent. They might end violently (usually verbally), yet the two somehow manage to find a way to coexist, which is probably indicative of a lot of family units. As Kristen criticizes Ryan’s loyalty to her in this episode when it appears like he’s making concessions in his negotiations with Kristen’s ex (over who gets custody of her son), the episode does a great job of taking Ryan through the believable stages of thought. Is Kristen actually a good parent to Joffrey? Should Ryan be believing what Kristen says just because she’s his sister? And is Arturo putting on a facade, or is he who he says he is? No decisions in Wilfred are ever easy, especially when they’re Ryan’s to make. But, unlike a lot of other stories this series has taken to darker places, “Loyalty” eventually highlights the natural bond of siblings in a moment of triumph. Ryan sees the situation for what it is: Kristen is flawed, but everyone is flawed, and she really does care about Joffrey more than anything in the world. So, he manages to get her full custody and gets to punch Arturo in the face as part of the process. Ryan and Kristen make up and tell each other how glad they are to have terrible siblings. This is resolution at its most formulaic, but Wildred rarely goes this route when it comes to these characters (Kristen almost never has more story than Wilfred), so it ultimately works well.
The rest of the episode–Wilfred’s cuddling addiction and minor developments in the larger story going on in the wake of Ryan’s dad’s death–is fine but probably unremarkable. The intervention that occurs,which includes a stuffed Animal doll, is hilarious when viewed from Ryan’s perspective, because you have to wonder how or why or when Wilfred (or some other omniscient entity) set the whole thing up. Wilfred’s commitment to the whole thing as he writhes on the floor after Bear stops him from leaving is classic and efficient Wilfred. Scenes like that make the stringing along of the mystery (there is a storage unit in Culver City that Ryan will be exploring, the contents of which his father wanted destroyed in the event of his death) completely tolerable. That may seem like an indictment, but it’s not meant to be. Wilfred really can’t be 20 minutes of heavy philosophizing, and “Loyalty” delivers a wonderful proportion of the different things Wilfred does or can do in any given episode, ultimately being elevated by a strong, considerate take on a topic that has tons of resonance.
– Sean Colletti